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The Singer Elizabeth Hunter 2022/7/22 11:38:32

Brooke let outa joyful whoop as they ran.

“Try again!” the girl said.

Ava had had far more success in her training with Mala and Renata. She was jogging along the path by the lake, and the frosted hillside sloped up to her right. Mala ran ahead of her and Brooke at her side. Renata was with them, but hiding on the hillside and in the woods, testing Ava’s range.

Ava opened her senses and stretched. Now that she could turn off all the voices, it took more effort to listen in a controlled way. She pictured the door Orsala had taught her to focus on in her mind. Slamming that door shut had been her salvation. Now, she was learning to crack it open in a way that would leave her in control of how much she heard. Isolated places like this were easier, and the mental exercise stirred her blood.

“She’s on the hill again, ahead of us.” Ava looked up, opening the door a bit more. “There.” She nodded toward an outcropping of rocks shielded by a stand of cedar trees. “Behind those rocks.”

Mala looked over her shoulder and shook her head, a grin on her face.

“Renata, come out!” Brooke called, and the woman stood up from her hiding place.

Exactly where Ava had pointed.

Mala whistled approvingly and Renata ran nimbly down the hill. “Did she hear me?”

“Yep!” Brooke was grinning. “She’s awesome.”

Renata fell in step behind them. “I’ve never seen range like yours. It’s so strong. I wonder if it’s because you didn’t know how to shield for so long.”

“Maybe,” Ava panted. “I never really had any control over it until I met Malachi. And most of the time, he made the voices go away completely.”

They all fell silent at his name, and the knot around her heart twisted again.

“It’s okay,” Ava said after the silence had dragged on too long. “Part of me wants to talk about him. Part of me worries about forgetting.”

Mala threw a look over her shoulder and signed something.

“You won’t forget,” Brook translated. “Don’t worry that you’ll forget.”

Renata changed the subject. “I want to take you into the field.”

Mala wheeled around and immediately went to run beside Renata as Brooke and Ava took the lead on the trail. Neither she nor Brooke could see the other women; they could only listen to the one-sided conversation.

“Can you imagine, though? With her range and accuracy, she’d be a huge asset. Plus, she’s a seer. Once she’s had more training, she’ll—”

“I haven’t forgotten, but it’s been two hundred years. Sari is going to have to get past her—”

Another pause and a few disapproving clicks of the tongue.

“I know, I know.” There was silence, and Ava chanced a glance over her shoulder, but Mala and Renata were both jogging and not looking at her.

“I still think it’s worth suggesting,” Renata said. “She wouldn’t even have to be close to help. She’d be… advance intelligence. And once she can understand more of the Old Language, she’d be invaluable. We could protect her. Partner her with someone with more field experience. And as she gets stronger—”

Mala made more disapproving clicks and Ava could hear her grunting slightly as she signed.

Ava looked over her shoulder again but didn’t see anything. Brooke caught her eye and grinned. Ava seized on Renata’s words. With her range and accuracy, she’d be a huge asset. Could the voices that had driven her near to insanity be the key to avenging Malachi’s death?

It sounded like Sari wouldn’t approve of her joining, for some reason, but then it wasn’t only up to Sari, was it? Ava let the idea churn in her brain while the four women ran back to the compound.